Date: January 8, 1939
Prayer for Christian Education
Our all-knowing God, in whom abides the highest wisdom:
We come before the throne of Thy mercy in behalf of our country’s youth, especially for the solution of the manifold problems involved in their education. Earnestly do we ask Thee to awaken within parents a sense of sacred responsibility toward their children, so that the power of home-training may not be lost. Send Thy Spirit also into the hearts of America’s boys and girls and show them the heavenly knowledge that begins with Thee through faith in Jesus, the Savior from sin and its destruction. Particularly do we bring before the throne of mercy the spiritual needs of the young men and women at institutions of higher learning who, often away from the protecting influences of their homes and surrounded by multiplied forces of unbelief, need Thy guidance to keep them faithful amid the daily temptations to disavow their spiritual loyalties. Prosper every school that reveres Thy Word; protect all teachers who love Thy testimonies; let a double measure of grace rest upon those nurseries of Christian knowledge which our churches maintain for the Christ-centered instruction of our children! All this, heavenly Father, we ask that our youth may be kept firm in the faith, and the message of Christ, our Savior, be proclaimed with increasing power throughout the world. Hear us, as Jesus has promised us Thou wouldst answer! Amen.
Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called. – 1 Timothy 6:20
THE average American child, even in Sunday-school, receives less training in the Christian religion than the typical Russian boy or girl does in atheistic Communism. More time and daily energy are spent in impressing 25,000,000 Soviet children with the delusion that God does not exist and Christianity is a fraud than we in the United States devote to teaching our sons and daughters that there is a God, that His Word and work are unmistakably revealed in the truth of Scripture. If it is a fact, as educational experts assure us, that 80 per cent of the nation’s youth are not properly prepared by our schools to assume their responsibilities in life, then more than 90 per cent of the young people in American churches are not adequately trained in spiritual matters, for the life beyond the grave.
To my mind this ignorance regarding the soul that results in dethroning the Almighty and making demigods of puny men is the most disastrous menace both to the future of our country and the eternal welfare of its millions. By ignoring Christ or denying His mercy, by ridiculing His Gospel or blaspheming His holy name, masses in this nation have already gone far on the road to ruin. We are reaping the heavy harvest of disaster sown with the seeds of unbelief. As never before we have—with all our splendid Christian young men and young women—a widespread youth movement away from Christ. Our penitentiaries and corrective institutions are overcrowded with teenage prisoners. We have more illegitimate births and abortions, more support for Communism among our young people, more youthful recruits for atheism and its offensive against our Christian faith, than the United States has ever known.
If we lose the rising generation for Christ, it can hardly be won for morality and the righteousness that exalts a nation. A prime purpose of all American Christians must therefore be to spread the Savior’s Gospel, particularly to win youth for Christ. Our legislators and executives are endeavoring to make this an $80,000,000,000 nation; our armies, navies, air forces, protect us from invasion; our scientists dedicate their efforts to produce a safe, comfortable, productive country with a high standard of living; our teachers and the schools labor to advance our intelligence; but God looks to the churches for intensified youth-training along spiritual lines. Unless an inner reawakening shows itself in an energetic, testifying clergy and laity concerned with bringing our youth to Jesus; unless modernist, Christ-denying preachers are removed from leadership in Protestantism and fanatical Jew-baiters, heralds of hate, learn to preach the Savior’s pardoning love; unless you men and women who occupy the pews are ready to stand up for Jesus, without fear or hesitation to proclaim the message of His cross and loyally adhere to the requirements of discipleship, the days of the Church’s influence may be numbered, and we may face persecution and the confiscation that has uprooted thousands of churches or invited government control of religion. As I speak to you on one of the crisis issues of this present day, I appeal:
KEEP THE TRUST OF FAITH!
Fight error! Promote the blessings of Christian education in conformity with this counsel of Saint Paul at the conclusion of his First Letter to Timothy (chapter 6, verse 20): “Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.”
KEEP THE FAITH DESPITE WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION!
Many of you will recall that these words were addressed to a young man who had consecrated his life to Christ. With fatherly interest and the experience based on many years of suffering for the Savior’s sake Saint Paul reminds Timothy, his young co-laborer in the Kingdom, that he must avoid “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.” His faith, the apostle says, will not remain unchallenged but will be attacked by men who speak volubly against Christ, lay claim to imposing learning and advance the theories of science in their opposition to God’s Word. The repeated voice of unbelief will tell Timothy: “You cannot believe what Paul of Tarsus taught you. Why, his preaching of sin, which says that ‘all have . . . come short of the glory of God,’ which damns all sinners with one sweeping condemnation: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ especially his message that Jesus of Nazareth, whom His own countrymen crucified, can cleanse us from our sins; Paul’s hope of heaven and the promise of eternity in that Christ,—all this,” the unbelieving world would continually remind Timothy, “is contradicted by the claims of our best minds and the teachings of our learned schools.”
If this opposition to our Lord’s atoning love flourished in the Apostolic Age, today young disciples of Jesus are much more completely surrounded by insistent, challenging unbelief. It starts in our public-school system, where frequently despite the basic American principles framed to prevent any public interference with our religious life, children from Christian homes are deliberately taught antichristian doctrines. This hostility to God continues and grows in some of our high schools, with the result that during these formative years plastic minds are being molded for life by teachers themselves so filled with hatred of the saving Gospel that they go out of the way to impress pupils with a contempt of Christ and His Word. In many colleges and universities, including some of the oldest and best established by the churches, in others among the largest and wealthiest, supported by taxpayers’ money, in not a few even that are under Church control, the movement against God and His Christ climbs to its destructive climax.
The modern philosophy of education from beginning to end is often based on a code which flatly contradicts the Bible. According to this creed man is not a fallen being, lost in trespasses and sins, but an advancing, improving creature, constantly rising to new heights of moral achievement. They tell us that the Bible is just another book, which may be viewed in part as good literature but which must be denied all authority, since it is saturated with superstition and error, leaving only those parts to be retained which can be endorsed by modern science. This philosophy holds that religion, after all, is nothing more than an issue of personal opinion. It matters not what a man believes as long as he is true to that conviction, since we are all traveling toward the same goal, only along different ways. Of the regenerating power of God’s Word, the necessity of rebirth by the Spirit, and the character-building power of Christianity this unbelief knows nothing. Because the very foundations of the Christian faith are thus rejected, above all, the Christ of endless mercy ignored as on the cross He bears the sins of all mankind; because modern pedagogy has openly declared war on the atoning power of Jesus’ holy, precious blood, we see that many schools are deliberately engaged in destroying the Christian hope of our boys and girls.
In church and Sunday-school our children hear that man is the masterpiece of God’s creative love; but during the five days of the ensuing week their teachers often picture him as a close cousin of the chimpanzee. During high-school age this youth is taught in Bible classes that the Scriptures come from God, that the Christian religion is the revelation of His love; but in the freshmen classes of many high schools all this is opposed as textbooks confidently describe Christianity as only another religion, which happened to grow together from Jewish, Greek, and Persian sources. These young people leave home for college, and many of them are obliged to take courses on religion in which the instructor deliberately reduces Christ to a human level common to all religious teachers. And the result? As some of you parents know from heart breaking experiences, these “profane and vain babblings” and these “oppositions of science falsely so called” have too often made skeptics of sincere Christian young people, doubters of disciples, Christ’s enemies of those who most solemnly pledged Him their allegiance. With tears and trembling many fathers and mothers have cursed the day in which their child came under these destructive influences.
This Christless culture is not only anti-Biblical; in a day when we need every ounce of patriotic support for the inner progress of our nation we realize that this academic uprising against God is also anti-American, that our colleges and universities have sometimes become recruiting-stations for leaders in the social and political revolution with which this country is threatened. It was a recognized figure in American cultural circles who declared that there are enough ardent Communists on every college faculty to emphasize the radical point of view to the students. A Negro poet, reputedly an atheist and a self-acknowledged Communist, spoke at the University of Minnesota convocation exercises, so that the students in a State where Lutheranism is deep-rooted and widespread were invited to hear a man whose poems are not only blasphemous but ultra-Red. In the same way undergraduates at Columbia University in New York attended a course of which one of the Communists enrolled reported that half of the time was devoted to the industrial revolution. While the course lasted, he said, “most of the students, regardless of their social origin, professed to be Socialists, anarchists, or syndicalists.” Examples of this kind could be multiplied at much length to show that not only our colleges but even our high schools have been contaminated. In Oklahoma City police authorities uncovered a radical organization which had enrolled high-school boys and girls for a program along definitely communistic lines. In New York City the assistant superintendent of schools is openly quoted in the newspapers as declaring that he would do nothing to prevent the organization of communistic groups in the high schools of the nation’s largest city. Almost twenty years ago a Boston teacher declared: “Give us a generation of small children to train to manhood, and we will set up in America the Bolshevist form of Soviet government.” That Communism in this country is working overtime thus to gain the rising generation for loyalty to the hammer and the sickle of the Red flag is a fact with which we must seriously reckon today. If the younger minds of the nation are won for atheism, that means the overthrow of the Church’s work, the confiscation of its property, the closing of its buildings, the martyrdom of its pastors,—the financial, social, moral bankruptcy of the nation.
These “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called” are not only anti-Biblical and anti-American; to a much higher extent they are also antimoral. Do you know that one of the most destructive influences directed against Christian marriage and the home arises from certain sectors of the educational system? Indignant parents have repeatedly protested against specified teachings on questions of sex and family life. The attitude openly endorsed by some university lecturers and textbooks amounts to free and easy love, promotes impurity in the hearts and lives of the students, and systematically contradicts the Bible’s pronouncements on the holiness of marriage, its indissolubility, its blessings in childhood and parenthood. This tendency which ridicules Christianity and excludes Jesus Christ from the classroom has helped to produce cleverness instead of virtue; trained the mind but not the heart; imparted knowledge but not wisdom; glorified the body but neglected the soul. Think for a moment of the major criminal events of the year. The most notorious perjurer and blackmailer of 1938 was a graduate of North Carolina University. The Number One thief and forger was a Harvard A. B. The master mind in one of the biggest rackets attended two of our large colleges.
Now, I hope you will not think that perhaps the Bible may be wrong, after all, with so many voices raised against it. It is a sad fact but true that often the cultural trend has been markedly anti-Biblical. When Voltaire, the destructive infidel, rode into Paris after having written repeated attacks on Christian faith, the scientists of his day celebrated his return with a glamorous festival. As he proceeded to the theater where he was to be feted, fanaticism was so widespread that the people kissed the horses that pulled his coach. They fought to touch his clothing, to tear a few hairs from his fur coat, which were to be preserved as a relic of humanity’s greatest genius. People even fell down to kiss Voltaire’s feet; but in the same year that arch-scoffer died, shrieking: “I am deserted by God and man!” Who gives a complimentary thought to Voltaire today? No matter how widely these babblers and scientists “falsely so called” are hailed as public idols, even though they be exalted to the highest positions, like a former premier of France, who has written a dirty book endorsing promiscuous relations and even filthier proposals, the hour of reckoning will inevitably come to every one of them.
Neither should you refuse to accept the Christian faith because someone tells you that practically all scientists are on record against it. Exactly the opposite is true. Many of the most devout minds in all centuries since Christ, leaders in various branches of scientific research, have been humble followers of Jesus. The situation is not this, that here and there, at rare intervals, a Christian mind has loomed high on the scientific horizon. On the contrary, the most eminent scientists have been Christians.
Rather than being charged with presenting a handpicked list of geniuses noted for their faith, I will concentrate my remarks on only one section of scientific activity, the field of light and vision. Not a religious organization but the Better Vision Institute of New York City has published a list of about twenty-five men who have helped to preserve and improve the eyesight of the world. For some of these scientists the particulars of their religious life are not now available. Two of the twenty-five, as far as we know, never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Five others are simply listed as members of Christian churches. But here come the rest, an impressive procession of believing, Christ-revering scientists in this single field and its related branches: William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, ranked with the supreme masters of medical science, who wrote: “I do most humbly render my soul to Him who gave it and to my most blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”; Sir David Brewster, titled expert in optics, inventor of the scientific stereoscope, often used in correcting defects of the eye, principal of Edinburgh University, a valiant defender of Christianity, who repeatedly asserted that there could be no conflict between true Christianity and true science; Gregory Mendel, who helped to formulate the basic laws of heredity, an Augustinian monk, who gave all glory to God; Thomas Young, the first to suggest definitely the cause and cure of astigmatism of the eyes, the man to whom millions with improved eyesight are directly indebted, a sincere Christian, who was acquainted with the original Greek and Hebrew of the Bible; John Kepler, genius in the field of vision, responsible for epochal discoveries in lenses, an astronomer of over-towering proportions, who with faith in his Savior spoke to God in these words: “Creator of all, how I thank Thee that Thou didst choose me, a miserable worm, to proclaim Thine exalted praise”; John Dalton, teacher, chemist, and physicist, whose studies in color blindness have proved of the highest practical importance, a trusting Christian, who regularly attended the services of his church; Sir Isaac Newton, acclaimed the greatest of all scientists, who not only observed the apple fall but who asked himself: “Why should the apple be rosy red?” and who found the answer by means of the prism, which split the rays of the sun into many different colors; Newton, who confesses: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus, by whom were all things and we by Him”; Louis Pasteur, world-famous bacteriologist, whose studies have helped to cure eye infections, the unassuming disciple of Christ, who asserted: “I pray constantly while at work in the laboratory”; Galileo, constructor of what is virtually the first telescope, whose testimony to the Bible rings clear in this confession: “The sacred Scriptures and nature both come from the divine Word”; Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most celebrated painters, the discoverer of basic facts concerning light and shade, who exclaimed: “How wondrous, O Creator, is Thy wisdom!” and who gave the most telling testimony to his faith in the artistry that immortalized the Savior; Roger Bacon, the first, it seems, to describe what we call a reading-glass, the greatest mind of his age, an uncompromising disciple of Christ, who wrote a famous treatise, In Praise of Holy Scripture. Here, in short, in one specialized field, the overwhelming preponderance of scientific leaders is notably Christian!
While I know that, if a religious census of college and university professors could be taken in our country today, it would reveal surprising inroads of atheism and unbelief, we have more scientists of humble, Christian faith than many believe. For the Church of Jesus Christ is not against true science, and true science is not against the Church. Only when men babble instead of speaking the truth, when they advance claims, not of actual science but of science “falsely so called,” can there be any dispute or disharmony.
KEEP THE FAITH AS A SACRED TRUST!
Now, when the apostle reminds young Timothy: “Keep that which is committed to thy trust,” he also tells us that the glories of our Christian faith are a sacred trust, a most precious possession, a blessing incomparably greater than wealth, learning, social position, and the pleasures of life. The divine hope I offer you every Sunday on this broadcast “is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” While admitting that without Christ we are lost forever,—with nothing we can do or say able to save us from the cruelty of life and especially from eternal death,—our hope in Christ nevertheless takes our heavenly Father at His word and, beholding “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” finds forgiveness, salvation, eternity.—That blessed hope, which is yours through the free mercies of God, must be guarded as our sacred trust after nineteen centuries of persecution, pain and blood. We can lose everything else in life and still be blessed forever; but if we lose that Christ, not all the wealth of this entire world can compensate for that terrifying loss. To be saved, to be assured of Christ’s immeasurable blessings now—and make no mistake about it, this rich fullness of the Christian life starts on earth and even here gives you peace, comfort, strength for the trying times through which many of you must pass; to be numbered among the vast, white-robed host of those who will find their eternal home in heaven, accept Christ now, lay hold of this trust prepared for you before the foundation of the world and guaranteed by the strongest surety man can ever know, the redemptive suffering and death of God made man.
To have faith and “keep that which is committed to” our “trust,” is Saint Paul’s appeal today. For this we need a much more penetrating program of Christian training and education. This, like many other blessings, must start in the home. Give us more love and interest in our family circles to train our children as Timothy was trained by his God-fearing mother and his devout grandmother! God, raise up fathers who, blessed with time and intelligence, will strike some items of business or pleasure from their daily calendar and speak to their own children on the eternal questions of their soul! If only you mothers, whose faith or lack of faith, to a degree greater than you realize, may help to show your own flesh and blood the way to heaven or to hell, would drop some of the pastimes and interests that take you away from your children and, instead, learn to bring them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”! In Old Testament times the father who was confronted by a conflict between the time of eating and of teaching his household the Law of God, was urged to sacrifice his meals. The mother who began to teach the child on her breast the Law of the Lord was praised with the highest recognition. Parents who refused to meet their obligations were called the scum of the earth. We have drifted far from this strenuous zeal in behalf of home training; but may God lead every one of you parents, if necessary through reverses and losses, to know the Savior in an intimate, personal, trusting way and then to keep this trust for the next generation by giving it to your children.
We need Jesus in the education of our children outside the home. If we stop to realize that often they are growing up in this treacherous age without spiritual strength and direction, the raw human material for every anti-God and antimoral movement that the next years may bring, will you not agree that, if you really love your child, you will encourage it to attend a true Sundayschool of God regularly and see that it enjoys every possible additional training in God’s truth? It is a great source of pleasure to me personally that the Church which I represent, the only Protestant Church that has assumed this privilege on a large scale, maintains many hundreds of Christian day-schools where children receive not only an accredited training in the branches taught by the public school, but also in the Christian religion, the study of the Bible, the treasury of Christian hymns. These schools are open without restriction to all American children, and those of you who want your children daily to learn more about their Savior and His Word are invited to write me, so that I can direct you to the nearest of our churchschools and thereby to greater happiness for your children.
We must have institutions of higher learning in which Christian leaders can be developed, where nothing that will warp the mind or injure the soul is taught in the classroom or illustrated in the lives of the teachers, high schools and colleges to which parents can send their children without the gnawing fear that they will enter as Christians and leave as infidels. Again I am happy to state, even though some of you mothers write me that your children lost their faith in a denominational school, there are still splendid, fully accredited colleges where Christ and His faith reign unchallenged. I think particularly of one school with which I am personally connected, and that represents the type of Christianity which God permits me to bring you, Valparaiso University, in Indiana, a college that I can recommend to all parents who know that their children are not profited if they gain distinctions in the Christless academic world but lose their own souls. Let me send you particulars concerning this and the dozen other of our definitely Christian schools and colleges throughout the country now open to your sons and daughters.
Far-reaching issues are involved in this appeal to accept Christ and to keep the trust of that faith for ourselves and our children. In these coming years, when, beyond all doubt, Communism, atheism, movements to restrict Christian rights and liberties, Fascist agitation for government control of all education, will sweep over our country with greater force than ever before as the backwash from European tides of Sovietism and state absolutism, the churches may have to fight for their very existence. We must learn the duty of protest and strenuously repel every attempt to curtail our privilege of maintaining Christian schools. We have two powerful forces on our side, God and the Constitution of the United States. Let us strengthen our defenses even now by more courageous confession of Christ, by prayer for deeper faith, greater zeal, more unselfish service, more generous offerings for the purposes of the eternal Kingdom. Led by the Holy Spirit, we must learn to appreciate our sacred trust in the full and free Gospel of a Savior slain for the sins of an evil world. With all that we have and are, let us resolve to keep Christ first, last, forever, uppermost in our homes, in our churches, in the hearts of millions whom we must help bring to Jesus. With this resolution: Christ only, always, everywhere, Christ for every sin and every sinner, Christ for every conflict and crisis, Christ for life and death itself, let us keep “that which is committed to” our “trust” through Him whose Word now assures us: “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” God grant it, by His promise! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.